Thursday, October 4, 2012

The NYC Department of Education’s Special Education Reform

The NYC Department of Education (DOE) has engaged a far-reaching special education reform effort. The stated goals of this Reform are to “improve access to more challenging academic curricula and to achieve better outcomes for students with disabilities.” This will be carried out by providing significantly more students with disabilities the opportunity to attend the schools they would attend if they did not have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). 

The Reform is intended to provide more students with disabilities access to their zoned schools and other schools of choice. Most NYC public schools will be expected to meet the needs of the majority of their students with IEPs. During the current school year, parents of students entering: kindergarten, middle school (6th grade), high school (9th grade) and “over-the-counter” students (those new to NYC’s public schools) with special education needs may be asked to consider different service and placement recommendations than in the past. The DOE is asking schools to reexamine students’ IEPs based on the availability of the program or service in the school building and the least restrictive environment. Your child’s school may ask you to reopen your child’s IEP even if you recently agreed to a new IEP at an annual review or this is your child’s first special education placement.

Unless your child has been accepted into a special program, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Nest or District 75, or requires bilingual services or a barrier-free site, you will not have the option of having your child attend another school that has the program or service on your child’s IEP. Other exceptions may apply to reasons pertaining to health and safety issues. Remember that parental rights in special education result from federal and state law. The Reform is a local policy matter and it does nothing to change your legal rights as a parent. Your child has the right to type of class and services on his/her IEP regardless of whether or not the school currently has them. The DOE is promoting the move of students with IEPs into the general education classroom (with the necessary supports and services.) However, there are questions whether general education teachers have received sufficient training in working with students with special needs.

If you are still having trouble resolving the matter, call 311 and ask to speak with the DOE’s Special Education Call Center. You may also try calling the DOE’s Hotline (718-935-2007) or visiting one of their locations for Special Education Family Office hours. In addition, the DOE has set up Special Education Family Office Hours which will run through September 27, 2012 and a hotline (311) or (718) 935-2007) for parents to help resolve concerns related to the reform.  For details on office hours, click here.

Your child has the right to receive the type of class and services on his/her IEP regardless of whether or not the school currently has them. Your child is still entitled to receive a free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, according to the federal law, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (Photo)

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